A “close-plane” mishap back on July 31 caused air traffic controllers a bit of concern at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and a newly-released report described moments of panic and chaos in the minutes during which not two but three planes were in uncomfortably close proximity in the skies.
The close-plane mishap is the subject of a 14-page report out of the National Transportation Safety Board detailing a bit more about what occurred in the skies and confirming what investigators of the near-miss have already indicated they believed led to the worrying incident.
Investigators of the close-plane mishap say two of the three planes would not have collided in their trajectory, but federal guidelines mandate planes maintain a safe distance of 1,000 vertical feet and 3.5 lateral miles separation. All three US Airways commuter flights were said to be at different headings and at different altitudes, and between the three, 192 passengers and crew were endangered during the close-plane mishap.
Per the Spokesman-Review, an unusual request that occurred prior to or during the close-plane mishap has since been banned as a practice due to the incident:
“The report also explains the miscommunication between controllers in the tower at Reagan and others at a regional air center in Virginia that guides planes into area airports. Because of bad weather to the south, a regional controller called the Reagan tower to ask to briefly land planes in a direction opposite the airport’s traffic flow.”
The site explains:
“The request was rare, and after the incident, the FAA said it was barring airports nationwide from the same maneuver until a standardized procedure can be put in place.”
According to a report, during the close-plane mishap (which occurred at around 2 pm EST), a regional air traffic controller “gasped” when she grasped what was happening.